The United States Telecom Association (USTelecom) announced via a blog post this week that it intends to do all it can to uphold the principle that “all Americans deserve equal rights online.” This includes ‘aggressively challenging’ any attempt by any local or state regulators to undo or undermine the rolling back of regulation regarding Title II Net Neutrality.
USTelecom is the trade association which represents the interests of various telecoms-related companies, including, but not limited to, AT&T and Verizon. Therefore, what USTelecom is stating here is that on behalf of AT&T, Verizon, and the rest of its members it will look to ensure all states and localities within the US abide by the same net neutrality rules set out by the current Federal Communications Commission (FCC). While this sort of announcement from a trade organization on behalf of its members is to be expected, what is garnering interest is the timing of the announcement. As the viewpoint of the current FCC is that net neutrality should be based on a light-touch approach and as a result the FCC previously announced it was rolling back on the then-existing FCC regulations regarding net neutrality. A move which many advocates of net neutrality view to be an attack on the ‘open internet.’ With the suggestion the rollback could potentially create a situation where the telecom industry has a greater degree of control over what internet users can access via the internet. Or, at the very least, a greater control over the cost of such access.
This is a viewpoint that is also being shared by a number of states, including California and Washington and as part of this ongoing debate some of these states have raised the suggestion of creating their own state-level net neutrality regulations and laws. While this is something that the FCC had looked to preemptively combat through its original mandate, some states in question have started to approach the courts as a means to rule such a blanket ban as unlawful. Thereby, paving the way for the scenario where a state can decide for itself the level and intricacies of net neutrality it wants to enact. The announcement this week by USTelecom suggests any of those state-based appeals that continue will be met by the full force of the trade organisation going forward. The blog post, penned by USTelecom’s President and CEO, Jonathan Spalter, likened the importance of maintaining a federal level of control over net neutrality to that of the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights.